Did the City of Gardner Law Department Okay This?
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Watch the City of Gardner’s March 30, 2021 Finance Commitee meeting referenced in this most recnet Gardner Iron article on conflict of interest.
XXXV April 13, 2021
The owner of a private business has asked the Mayor for a monopoly on outside real estate legal services needed by the City of Gardner – on an ongoing, and continuous, and automatic basis.
And the Mayor was fine with that and signed the contract.
This contract will shut out all other businesses in this locality, this region, and this State which offer the same outside legal services to the City.
I use the term “outside” loosely, of course. This is so . . . well, inside.
Under this contract, there will be no looking around for the best services. There will be no looking around for the best prices.
In fact, the Mayor has already selected the private business getting the City monopoly.
The Mayor believed the owner of this private business when he told the Mayor that his business was the best, and the cheapest.
Why look any further? That would be crazy.
Here is the remarkable part: that private business, just by pure coincidence and chance, is located right here in Gardner (of all places!).
What is even more of a coincidence, another bizarre twist of chance, is that the person who owns that private business is the Head of the City of Gardner’s Law Department!
What are the chances?
The person telling the Mayor that it’s a benefit to the Citizens of Gardner that this particular private business be given a monopolistic, exclusive, automatic, continuous, ongoing contract from the City is not just the owner of that particular private business, Flick Law Group, P.C. – he is also the Gardner City Solicitor, John M. Flick, Esq.
Seriously, though – what has happened in this City where the City Solicitor would actually have the temerity, the audacity, to think it’s perfectly fine to walk into a Mayor’s office and ask for a City monopoly for his private business, and not expect to be thrown out on his ear (or fired)?
More than that, this City Solicitor also expects that 6 out of 11 City Councillors will agree with this. Though Flick has been asking for, and getting, more from the City since 2008, this just might be a bridge too far.
The Mayor couldn’t provide one fact to support his decision to give the monopoly to Flick’s private business, so he did what people always do when facts are scarce – dissemble the issue into something else.
So, the Mayor’s reply was that this is only business as usual in Gardner (saying things like, “we have a lot” of these types of contracts in the City).
It’s like asking your kid why he’s pulling up all the tulips, and he says, “well Sally pulled up the daffodils already.” Oh, o.k., I see the logic, carry on.
No, Mr. Mayor, we don’t have “a lot” of these City employee-owned monopolies in Gardner – never mind ones that don’t go out to bid or for Requests For Proposals (“RFP’s”).
In fact, the City does not have one other monopolistic contract with private businesses owned by a City employee.
It’s better than that, though. Not only is the monopoly owned by a City employee in this case, that City employee gets paid $90,000 per year by the Citizens to provide, wait for it, legal services to the City – and his private business is now given the City monopoly to do what? Wait for it . . . to provide legal services to the City.
It’s like giving the City Auditor’s private business a contract to provide outside municipal auditing services to the City.
This is not a Golf Commission member who paints houses on the side; this is a lawyer providing lawyer services on both sides of the contract – and getting City money on both sides of the contract.
Did the Law Department okay this? Or, did the Law Department obtain independent legal counsel to advise the Mayor on this?
Flick and the Mayor played this off as no big deal at all – just a housekeeping matter, nothing to see here. It was described as a simple “procedural issue,” just a little something to “tidy” things up.
Please, People, don’t be distracted by the second-hand smoke.
Let’s try to focus on reality (as politically incorrect as that is).
In fact, it was such a small thing to City Solicitor Flick that he had the brand-new W-2 employee of his private business, and not Flick himself, as the signer on the contract with the Mayor.
When asked by Councillor James Walsh at the March 30, 2021 Finance Committee Meeting (watch the YouTube video) why he would ever do something like that, City Solicitor Flick stammered and sputtered – knowing full well that Councillor Walsh is not easily hypnotized by Flick’s usual rhetoric. Flick was barely able to blurt out this non sequitur: “Ahh, ahh, ahh . . . I’ve given him authorization to sign contracts for real estate closings and title work on behalf of Flick Law Group, P.C.”
Hello? Earth calling Flick. What about a high-level City officials getting monopolistic municipal contracts for all present and future outside professional personal services needed by the City? Did you give your brand-new W-2 employee “authority” to sign those contracts for you, too? That was the question, after all.
Never mind the dissembling, Flick could have had the Man in the Moon sign this contract for him, and it would still have zero to do with whether the proposal letter and the contract is ethical under the law – which was the basis of Councillor Walsh’s question (actually Councillor Walsh asked Flick why he is trying to “twist the City Council into an ethical pretzel”).
Aside from Flick’s dissembling (and irrelevant) answer – who wrote up the contract? Who presented the contract to the Mayor? Who advised the Mayor about it? Who’s asking the City for the business? Who sent the letter to the Mayor, with the contract attached? Who explained the contract to the Finance Committee? Who is the City employee poised to gain a financial advantage from this contract?
This is the first ever City contract of its kind in Gardner – if not in Massachusetts.
If the City Council approves this, it gives the City Solicitor’s private business an open-ended, exclusive contract with the City, indefinitely into the future – and no other businesses offering the same services will ever get the chance to compete for this City work.
Did the Gardner Law Department okay this? Or did the Law Department obtain independent legal counsel to advise the City about this arrangement?
On top of it all, who in the City Law Dept. will decide when the City has a “need” (or desire) to hire the City Solicitor’s private business, Flick Law Group, P.C.?
Who in the City Law Dept. will decide whether the price charged to the City by the City Solicitor’s private business, Flick Law Group, P.C. is fair and reasonable?
But, it’s all ok, relax – Flick’s brand-new W-2 employee is the signer on this contract, not Flick himself. Phew! That was a close one!
It’s not because Flick’s private business offers some kind of rare, unique or special legal expertise. Quite the contrary. There are many, many law businesses that offer the same services.
Maybe you all think this is a great idea, but did the Gardner Law Department okay this?
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